Romford model railway enthusiasts hope to attract more members and avoid closing 50-year-old society
PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 December 2019 | UPDATED: 07:33 23 December 2019
A model railway club that has been running for 50 years in the borough is in a “crisis” position due to a lack of members.
The Romford Model Railway Society (RMRS) was started by former teacher Mike Rettman in 1969.
Now the society fears the club will have to close for good as most of its members have either died or moved away.
Laurie Calvert from Rainham told the Recorder: "The club is suffering and we're in a really poor way. It's literally in a crisis position.
"We had around 20 members last year and now we have got about 11 regulars and the membership doesn't cover the rental of the art centre we're based in.
"Railway clubs are often made up of older men and as people have passed away the clubs are getting smaller and the hobby is dying out.
"We're trying to broaden the appeal of the hobby and get more younger people involved."
The RMRS has occupied a variety of premises in the borough, including a member's garage, a church house, a barn and it now meets in a room in the Fairkytes Arts Centre in Billet Lane, Hornchurch.
Alan Kay, chairman of the society, said: "Many members have come and gone.
"There have been over 40 exhibitions in the Romford area all displaying a great range of layouts and products but the principle of having a friendly organisation where railway members can build and run layouts remains unchanged."
The RMRS used to hold annual shows at Marshalls Park Academy in Pettits Lane, however it won't able to host a show this year which meant a further loss in income for the society.
In 2017 a record breaking turnout of more than 600 model railway enthusiasts flocked to the Romford school for the exhibition.
"The club is different things to different people," said Laurie.
"Some people bring along model trains and drive them around while they chat to people.
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"Other people go along just to socialise and some people, like me, come along to make the model trains, pass around ideas and get tips from other people.
"There's no pressure and everyone is welcome to join."
Laurie joined the club seven years ago and soon saw his interest in model railways develop into a full-time hobby.
He appeared on Channel 5's Great Model Railway Challenge where he led Team Steampunk to build a sci-fi model railway with dinosaurs and men.
He said: "When I was young I wasn't that interested in model railways but then when I turned 50 I started to gain an interest.
"The hobby very quickly bites you and then you find yourself buying more trains, buying more tracks and bigger layouts and it just snowballs."
Sometimes it can take up to five months for the train enthusiasts to complete a project.
Model trains are classified according to various gauges and scaled to ensure the models look correct when places next to each other.
Alan added: "People interested in the hobby should join the RMS as it is a local, friendly club for modellers of all abilities in the three most popular gauges, 'O', 'OO' and 'N'.
"People can develop their skills or just play trains if they wish."
Laurie continued: "There are different levels of memberships you can have as kids pay less and if they're under 18 and need to be accompanied with a parent - they will go free.
"People are welcome just to come and observe, have a chat, drink tea, and socialise.
"People don't have to build or run trains. After Christmas if anyone gets a train set as a present hopefully they might fancy popping along."
The RMRS meets once a week on Monday evenings from 6.30pm to 9.30pm at the Fairkytes Art Centre in Billet Lane.
The next meeting is on January 6, 2020. Contact Alan on 07946615381 to find out more about the society.